The Grove, formerly known as Forest Park Southeast, has been rumored for past ten years or so -- ever since they cleaned up the crack pipes that used to cover the sidewalks -- to be the most up-and-coming neighborhood in St. Louis. Some may argue that it was eclipsed first by Washington Avenue and then by Cherokee Street.
But they're wrong! And the Grove now has the biggest sign in the city to prove it. See? Can Cherokee's cigar store, uh, Cherokee dude possibly compare to this?
(Well, if they had kept the unfortunate motto that mars the neighborhood's streetlight banners, there might be room for debate. Seriously. "Halfway to everywhere"? Wouldn't you just want to be somewhere?)
This monstrosity arrived from Boston on Monday night and was installed at the intersection of Chouteau and Manchester Avenues yesterday, where it hangs 30 feet above street level, right next to the Rehab bar. It measures 24 feet long and 11 feet tall, has neon lighting on both sides and cost $60,000 to build. (Some Bostonian shipbuilders did the honors.)
And where, pray tell, did this $60,000 come from? The Grove has seen a fair amount of business development over the past few years, mostly bars and nightclubs, but recently a few retail stores and restaurants have moved in as well. But it's still not nearly as prosperous as its northern neighbor, the Central West End. Though property values may have increased, some of its streetscapes are pretty shabby and there's nary a mansion to be found. (Plus, an old house on Gibson Avenue collapsed during a storm this past summer. You don't see that on Pershing Place. Ever.)
It does have one super-wealthy resident, though: the Washington University Medical Center.
Ha! Bet you thought it was in the Central West End, too. But the Medical Center has shown its true neighborhood alliance: the Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation (WUMCRC) has donated $30 million to the cause of improving the 'hood. Beneath the neon sign, you can see new and improved sidewalks, and, thanks to another quarter million dollars from WUMCRC, security officers patrol the medical center in golf carts and police officers patrol the neighborhood streets on bicycles.
"Wash U. Medical Center cares about The Grove because it's at the doorstep of our medical campus," Brooks Goedeker, a WUMCRC spokesman, told KTVI-TV (Channel 2). Goedeker noted that in 2000, there were 800 crimes in the neighborhood. This year, there are projected to be 300.
By 2012, Goedeker hopes the crime rate will be halved again. And to install another big sign at the neighborhood's western border, at Manchester and Taylor Avenues. Yeah, that'll show those hipster kids on Cherokee who's cool.